Town Council Discusses Covid, Trash Contract

The Winthrop Town Council held a meeting on March 23, where it discussed its progress in tackling COVID as well as the town’s waste contract. Roughly 17 members of the public attended.

COVID-19

Winthrop is currently in the Yellow Zone with a 2.6 percent positive rate. The town has had 2,079 cases with 35 deceased and 32 in isolation.

Vaccine distribution is well underway. To date, 5,880 Winthrop residents have received at least one dose of the Moderna vaccine, or over one third of residents over the age of 18. Winthrop is outpacing neighboring communities in this regard. Starting April 19, all members of the public age 16 and older will be able to get vaccinated.

Vaccines are available at clinics in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere by appointment only by calling 617-568-4870. Appointments for at-home vaccines can be made by calling the Emergency Operations Center at 617-539-5837.

“We’re headed in the right direction. There’s hope again,” said Dept. of Public Health Director Meredith Hurley, praising “the amount of staff and volunteer time that has gone into this effort.”

Pres. Phil Boncore was optimistic, but urged ongoing caution.

“Just because we’re getting all these vaccinations doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear your mask,” he said. “Restaurants are opening and that is good but please wear your mask.”

The School Committee voted to send all students back to the classroom on April 5. The district is currently working with the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education to coordinate lunch times. It is also replacing its tandem desks with single desks. Athletic teams have returned to training and have even won some victories.

Town Manager Austin Faison plans to open Town Hall to the public beginning on May 1. In-person business will take place Monday through Thursday from 9am to 12pm by appointment only. He is currently in talks with the library union to determine how to also open the library to the public by May 1.

Faison is open to helping the council navigate how to hold in-person meetings in the Harvey Room, emphasizing that masks, social distancing and capacity limits would still be enforced. He added that making meetings remotely available to participants and the public would take some practice.

“We’re trying to make it work,” he said. “The ability to meet remotely is to the benefit of the town.”

Trash Contract

Council voted to transfer $524,363 from the Town’s General Stabilization Fund to appropriate funding for a new waste removal contract. Town Manager Faison proposed a trash fee to cover the increased cost of the contract for FY21, which ends June 30, but the Finance Committee didn’t feel that residents should be responsible for covering a cost increase during the current fiscal year.

Rather than approve a trash fee outright, Council supported the Finance Committee’s decision to start an enterprise fund for trash for FY22. The Town would appropriate approximately $1.2 million and a solid waste fee would be instituted to cover the remaining cost. Households would pay roughly $150 per year for waste removal. A final vote will likely take place at the April 6 meeting of Council.

Faison praised the Finance Committee’s “hard work” on tackling the issue, adding that he was appointing two new members to the Town’s Zero Waste Committee.

“I want this group to help make some of these decisions,” he said.

Body Art Regulations

Dr. Astrid Weins, the Vice Chair of the Winthrop Board of Health (BOH), gave a presentation about new regulations surrounding body art, which is becoming more popular in the state. The regulations set forth standards of care that preserve the health and safety of customers. They focus on interior design, single-use items, signage and record-keeping. They also inform the permitting process, apprenticeships and training requirements.

The BOH took its cues from other Mass. communities such as Boston, Cambridge and Peabody, in addition to consulting with experts. Pres. Boncore sent the matter to the Rules and Ordinances Committees to be incorporated into the Town’s existing bylaws on body art. The full draft of the regulations can be viewed here.

General Updates

There are immediate openings on the Airport Hazards Committee; the Board of Appeals; the Commission for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations; the Transportation Safety Advisory Committee and the Winthrop Planning Board.

On March 30, Winthrop will hold elections at the old middle school to fill the state representative seat vacated by Mass. House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The CBD project construction team has resumed work, with a projected completion date between December and spring of 2022.

There will be an active bystander training offered by the library on April 7, from 6-8:30pm, sponsored by the Winthrop Foundation.

The Town’s Annual Spring Forum will be held on April 20.

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